This June at Alt Summit, I heard my (kick-ass) friend Susan speak about entrepreneurship. Ever since then, one of her lines has been bopping around in my head, “Figure out the life you want, and run hard at it.” The phrase stuck with me because it’s how I’ve always built my life. As someone who spent a good chunk of her life trying to get past certain realities—trying to get out of an impoverished city, or get a scholarship to a good college, or find a creative job that paid the bills—the practice of making lists has been powerful. If you know that you don’t want what you see around you every day, you have to be able to imagine something different. You have to be willing to dream something audacious.
So I dreamed a life that seemed impossible. I ran for it, I found it, and some days it still seems too amazing to be true. To the outside eye, it might seem that running a business and writing a book are the impossible-seeming achievements. But my impossible-seeming moments are littler. The easy relationship I have with my kid. Not struggling to pay the bills every month. Figuring out how to be a mom and still not fit into a very particular societally-expected mold. Those small-seeming things feel like huge achievements to me. My dreams, it turns out, were not so crazy. Which is, I suppose, the lesson. Things that seem audacious when you dream them, usually are not as wild as you think.
But lately, the “where next” question has been haunting me. While I really love renting, I’ve always dreamed of buying a fixer-upper—and some days feel cheated that, when that goal finally should seem attainable, the market in the Bay Area has spun so out of control that the smart money isn’t on buying a house to fix up. But the real truth is, I can’t even imagine what kind of house I would buy. Which encapsulates the problem. I can’t figure out what my new dreams should be in many aspects of my life. I know where I want to go next (more or less), but I don’t seem in any hurry to get there, and the edges of those dreams are still very blurry.
All this is possibly just as well. As someone who dreamed a dream, wrote a list, and then pushed like hell to get out, I didn’t get to stop very often. If I wanted better, I needed to do better. And better was a list with fifty things on it, and it needed to be done now. And when you’re thinking about it that way, it’s no wonder that my twenties and early thirties were filled with anxiety. Because I couldn’t stop and think about what it meant to spend a lifetime getting shit done. Or how it felt to always be the go-to girl for taking care of business. I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy the moment, because there was always, always survival to attend to.
So maybe it’s for the best that my quest for my next adventure is stalled, in a failure of imagination. Maybe after spending a life of audacious dreaming, it’s okay if I can’t figure out what imaginary house I’d buy, if I could buy an imaginary house. Because I have a house. It’s a lovely rental house, and it’s exactly the house I always dreamed of. I get to slow down in the mornings on walks with my kid, knowing that the business I built will be there when I get to work. I’m finally starting to own the fact that I’m a mom, but I don’t dress like the moms on TV—and I don’t have to. I’m getting a chance to define myself by the moments of being, instead of as the girl who can do. I get to be less of a shell of myself, and more of a whole person. My adventure is right here, and the audacious dreams will be waiting for me when I’m ready.
This month, we’re talking about adventure. And while you might think that means I’ve spent my weeks reading submissions about trips to far off lands and what you found there, I haven’t… really. Because while I’ve read about post-marriage moves to Italy, it turns out that what you found there was the ability to slow down and stir risotto, not just an exotic destination. This month we’ll read about nervous breakdowns, and what you find when you adventure to the bottom. We’ll talk about what happens when you get close to thirty and realize that you’re not, in fact, going to be Beyoncé. And about adventuring every exhausted day with a baby. Plus, thanks to Blurb, Maddie was able to capture a day in my life in pictures, and I’m hoping that allows me to better see (and hold onto for the future) the adventure in my everyday.
Our culture sells marriage as the end of adventure. And while that’s wrong (we can be married and travel around the world), perhaps that’s because we discount the greatest adventure of all—diving into ourselves, and living in this very moment.
This August, I hope you get away from your desk for some small adventure. Maybe that’s renting your first travel trailer for a camping adventure (us!), or maybe that’s just sitting down for a dinner with people you love outside. Here is to adventures great and small, and to sharing what we learned with each other.